By JIM KUHNHENN, Associated Press
WASHINGTON - Sen. Barack Obama, second to none in the race for campaign cash, raised more than $40 million in March and boosted his vast network of donors to nearly 1.3 million, the campaign announced Thursday.
The amount is less than the record $55 million he raised in February, but still a sizable amount that sustains his place as the fundraising leader among all presidential candidates. The money gives him a substantial financial advantage over Democratic rival Hillary Rodham Clinton as they compete for votes heading into the April 22 Pennsylvania primary.
Clinton is expected to have raised about $20 million in March, but her campaign has not announced any totals. Details of their March fundraising will be made public in official reports filed with the Federal Election Commission April 20.
The Obama campaign said it attracted more than 218,000 first-time donors in March.
"Many of our contributors are volunteering for the campaign, making our campaign the largest grass-roots army in recent political history," campaign manager David Plouffe said.
Obama has been the candidate most successful at blending high dollar donors with small contributions by deft use of the Internet. He has had the highest number of donors contributing $200 or less.
"We knew that he was going to outraise us," Clinton communications director Howard Wolfson said. "He has outraised us over the last several months."
Wolfson said the campaign will have the resources they need to compete and be successful in the upcoming primaries. He pointed to Clinton's base of support from online fundraising, saying she had raised about $1 million online on March 31.
Obama's announcement comes as both Democrats return to a popular financial wellhead, raising money in California to help finance a heavy stretch of spending in April. With their race for the Democratic nomination showing no signs of ending, tapping donors for more cash has new urgency.
Obama has scheduled fundraisers at the homes of four different financial backers Sunday afternoon and evening in northern California. Clinton attended one fundraiser Wednesday in Silicon Valley, and had three planned for Thursday — in San Francisco, Pasadena and Los Angeles.
Most of the events are for donors giving the $2,300 maximum allowed by law.
Obama raised a record $55 million in February; Clinton raised $34.5 million.
Though the New York senator trails Obama in delegates needed for the nomination, Clinton advisers and fundraisers said her donors remain enthusiastic. But her fundraisers also say she relied too much on large donors early in the cycle.
"That pool is reduced," said Larry Stone, a Clinton fundraiser in Silicon Valley who also is the Santa Clara County assessor. "Hillary came really late to the game in effective fundraising on the Internet as compared to Barack Obama ... Many of the solid enthusiastic Clinton supporters were maxed out."
But Stone added: "A big boon to the fundraising has been these appeals for her to withdraw. It makes supporters angry, especially women."
Clinton aides said Wednesday that they anticipate Obama will outspend her by 2-to-1 in Pennsylvania. In the first round of campaign ads, Obama spent about $2 million to Clinton's $450,000, according to data compiled by TNS Media Intelligence/Campaign Media Analysis Group, which tracks political ads. Obama is also already airing ads in Indiana and North Carolina, which won't hold primaries until next month.
"We don't expect to match Senator Obama ad for ad," Wolfson told reporters during a conference call Wednesday.
Clinton entered March with $11.5 million to spend in the primary compared to $30.5 million for Obama. Moreover, Clinton owed $8.7 million to several campaign vendors at the end of February. A spot check by The Associated Press of several vendors found many were paid last month, after the March 4 primaries in Ohio and Texas. The cost of those two contests, together with efforts to reduce campaign debt, have kept fundraising a priority for her campaign.
By Jill Lawrence, USA TODAY
The score on Democratic presidential caucuses this nomination season could hardly be more lopsided: Barack Obama 11, Hillary Rodham Clinton 2, New Mexico pending. And a lot of those Obama wins were landslides.
Obama's big win Sunday in Maine, a state where demographics and other indicators suggested Clinton would do well, begs an answer to the question: Why doesn't Clinton win caucuses?
Clinton and her allies point to the nature of a caucus. Blue-collar and shift workers, they say, don't have the time or flexibility to show up at a certain time and stay for a couple of hours. If you're out of town, you're out of luck. Ditto if you can't get a babysitter.
Political analysts say passion and organization are key to caucus wins and Obama has them in greater measure. "He's got both an army of campaign workers and an operatic presentation" that excites people, says Lawrence Jacobs, director of the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance at the University of Minnesota. "It's a very potent, very unusual combination."
Clinton has targeted early and large states. On Super Tuesday, she focused on and won New York, New Jersey, California and Massachusetts.
David Plouffe, Obama's campaign manager, said Obama has tried to compete in every contest "in pursuit of delegates." He said that has meant TV ads in New York and California, two states Obama never expected to win, and taking caucus states "very seriously."
Clinton strategist Mark Penn said the campaign invested where returns would be greatest. "Our funds at the time were limited. We put them into the Super Tuesday states that were successful," he said, and that in turn has sparked new contributions.
Caucuses still to come this year are Hawaii on Feb. 19, Wyoming on March 8 and Puerto Rico on June 7. Texas holds a primary March 4, then awards one-third of its delegates at evening caucuses open to people who voted.
So far, Clinton has won American Samoa and Nevada. Obama has won Iowa, Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Minnesota, North Dakota, Nebraska, Washington state, the Virgin Islands and Maine. Six contests on Super Tuesday helped keep up with Clinton on delegates.
A closer look at three caucus states:
"Idaho. John Foster, executive director of the state Democratic Party, said the largest factor in Obama's 80%-17% win was a self-starting group of "very passionate volunteers" who became active last spring and later were augmented by a part-time paid campaign staffer.
The Clinton effort came together a month before the Feb. 5 caucus, Foster said. "They were certainly aware of what was happening here. But strategically they didn't invest a lot here."
The upshot, he said, was a team of "establishment party folks" up against "a lot of young new people who were extremely motivated and just worked themselves ragged for six months."
"Washington state. Kelly Steele, a spokesman for the state Democratic Party, described a similar scenario of Obama fans organizing "organically" and later supplemented by paid staff. Clinton was backed by both U.S. senators from Washington and featured them in TV ads. She did three events in the state while Obama did only one.
Whether it was a primary or caucus, Steele said, "Obama simply had more support." A SurveyUSA poll of Washington released Friday, the day before the caucus, showed Obama at 50%, Clinton at 45%. Obama won easily, 68%-31%.
"Minnesota. Jacobs said Clinton made a "triage" decision not to spend much. "She wasn't running ads. She didn't have much of a paid staff," he said.
A poll by Jacobs' center and Minnesota Public Radio, released five days before Super Tuesday, showed Clinton leading Obama 40%-33%, within the poll's margin of error. Two days later, Obama drew 20,000 people to a rally in Minneapolis.
Jacobs said they emerged "supercharged, talked up the caucuses to their friends, and Obama's ground troops made sure everyone got to the right place." The result: 66% for Obama, 32% for Clinton. She is running, Jacobs said, against a "phenomenon."